Features Issue 8 Magazine

The Making of The Courage to Say Yes

During the Academy period of Wednesday, May 1st — Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day — the students and staff of Las Lomas watched the film that had been in production since November of 2018, The Courage to Say Yes. The project was intended to spread awareness of the weight of the Holocaust. More specifically, it featured Las Lomas stories. In the movie students and staff told stories of the people who helped their own families in escaping Nazi Germany.

History is still being written, too, which makes unheard-of stories extremely valuable. The Page staff was the first to collect testimony from Holocaust survivor Beth Snortum, as well as testimonies passed down to the descendants of survivors: sophomore Rachel Rosenbaum, juniors Elena Rich, Jaden Fisher, and Alexandr Plaschinsky, Associate Principal David Granzotto, and senior, Zoe Snortum Phelps. These testimonies will be given to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the USC Shoah Foundation and be officially archived as history.

Film production started when the class of Journalism 1 wrote research papers on different angles related to Yom HaShoah, such as how life was for different groups of people after the Holocaust ended, what Jewish art and education was like before the Holocaust, or about connections between the Holocaust and other genocides. After the papers were completed and turned in, everyone in the class was given the opportunity to contribute to a film commemorating Yom HaShoah. Of the Journalism 1 class, freshmen Zeyada Negasi, Yiying Zhang, Mya Rafferty, Cael Hill, Lillian Hedlund, and Jillian Stuart chose to continue on and work towards The Courage to Say Yes. Juniors Christy Knudson, Kylia Blackstock, and Vanessa Jamieson of Journalism 2 and 3 also played extremely significant roles in the making of the film.

The film gave the students in Journalism 1 who participated a great opportunity to learn more about the process of writing, shooting, and producing a documentary, as well as valuable experience. On top of this, Las Lomas alumnus Jason Zavaleta — director of In the Forest of Darkness, The Proceedings, and I Wrote This For You — visited The Page’s headquarters during the middle of March to advise the crew on interviewing specifically for a documentary. 

Next year, Journalism 1 will split the class into sections in order to help students zero in on what they are most interested in: either photojournalism and video or writing. The staff of The Page will also be working on films in the future, so students who are thinking of pursuing a future in documentaries, etc. can gain experience from participating in them as well as the photo and video curriculum— all of the other schools in the Acalanes Union High School District have programs that offer study in filmmaking, but Las Lomas lacks thereof.

Of course, this new opportunity and The Courage to Say Yes would not be possible without help from the Laszlo N. Tauber Family Foundation. After World Language and ELD teacher Marlene Miranda traveled to Israel and learned about the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, she came back with the idea for a project to teach the Las Lomas community about the genocide. The Tauber Foundation gifted the Tauber Holocaust Education Fellowship to Ms. Miranda to fund the project which grew into The Courage to Say Yes: a Yom HaShoah Commemoration Film.